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The reunion plays OK, partly because all the performers (Stallone especially) still look pretty fit, and partly because The Expendables is a reunion not just of the stars but of their prime movies from a generation ago. Here we have the R-rated violence, the bonding of macho males, the hairy stunts achieved mostly by real people rather than CGI technicians.
This integrity, Hollywood-style, produces some nicely managed action scenes: two vigorous auto chases and crashes; the strafing of a dock full of disposable soldiers, with Sly flying the plane and Statham firing at them from a slit in the nose; and the final arms-race Armageddon (using Rio de Janeiro's magnificent Parque Lage residence as a backdrop), which features such eye-catching combat as Statham punching a Vilena villain who's engulfed in flames. Basically a feature-length PSA for the Second Amendment, The Expendables allows only one debate on weaponry: whether bullets or knives are more effective. A bullet moves faster, but can be used only once; a knife can be extracted from the neck of one victim and used to open the gut of another.
For all the good will the enterprise engenders, it'd be nice if the dialogue allowed the actors to make some emotional connection to their roles and to one another. Too many scenes have anemic punch lines, or go on forever. Rourke, as a retired Expendable who's now the group's booker, gets an endless soliloquy that's shot in such intense closeups that Stallone must have thought the actor was a sure bet for another Oscar nomination, instead of a Razzie. We do give points to Lundgren, as the one truly expendable Expendable (hard drugs have made him untrustworthy), because he calls the kick-boxing Li "Happy Feet," he manages to use "insect" as a curse word and he has the snarliest grimace and prettiest teeth in the business. There's also a decent exchange in the one scene involving Stallone, Willis (as a CIA boss who wants to stop Roberts) and Schwarzenegger (as an ex-Expendable he's ready to offer the job to. Arnold: "I'm busy now. Give it to my friend. He loves playing in the jungle." Bruce (to Sly): "What's his problem?" Sly: "He wants to be President."
Like too many recent action movies, The Expendables ends with the main cast reconvened for the promise or threat of a sequel which virtually guarantees there won't be one, considering the underwhelming box-office fates of the year's other films that used this ploy: The A-Team, Kick-Ass, The Last Airbender, The Sorcerer's Apprentice and Prince of Persia. Stallone's film is not essential; it's expendable. What he says in the movie is true of its stars: "If the money's good, we don't care what the job is."
But since Sly and his old, old pals have asked you to attend their lawn pageant at the Motion Picture Fund rest home, it would be churlish to refuse their invitation. What you will find is both familiar in its contours and unique in its casting: the definitive alterkocker action picture. Call it The Old Dogs of War, or Incontinent Basterds.